Marriage between a man and a woman was "instituted by God" as part of his plan for the "wellbeing of society" and shouldn't be extended to same-sex couples, a group of pastors said Thursday at a rally on the steps of the state Capitol.
Same-sex unions were briefly legal in Arkansas earlier this month when a Pulaski County circuit judge found the state's bans on the practice unconstitutional. Several hundred couples married before the state's Supreme Court stayed, or froze, the judge's order pending appeal, at least temporarily halting the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
On Thursday, about 100 pastors with the Ecumenical Coalition of Faith Leaders of Arkansas joined Family Council President Jerry Cox, state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, and others at the Capitol for the rally. Several of the pastors led the roughly 150 additional attendees in prayers before Pastor Derick Easter of New St. Hurricane Missionary Baptist Church read a statement decrying same-sex unions.
"We believe that term 'marriage' has only one meaning and that is marriage sanctioned by God which joins one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in scripture," Easter said. "Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established."
Easter added in the statement that "hateful and harassing behavior ... are to be repudiated and are not in accord with scripture nor the doctrines of the church."
"The church's opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women, always reminding church members of their obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people," he said.
The group declined to answer questions from reporters about the event.
A handful of gay-marriage supporters stood to one side of the gathering, waving signs and interjecting at times during the pastors' words.